Mid 15th century with later modifications; formerly ruinous; restored late 1960s, Ian Lindsay and Richard Avery. 4-storey, rectangular-plan tower house with garret and parapet wall and tall curtain wall enclosing courtyard to S and E. 3-storey, rectangular-plan, crowstep-gabled dwelling house to S of courtyard incorporating S side of wall and with tall round tower attached to SE corner. Low battery wall and former kitchens to NW corner. Original small slit window openings. Small timber-boarded entrance porch and kitchen block to courtyard. Lewiscian Gneiss stone with greenish yellow Mull freestone dressings to larger window openings (now harled).
Fixed timber casements, and boarded timber doors. Graded grey slates; cement skews to tower house. Plain rendered stacks with plain clay cans. Rooflights; plastic dome rooflights to linking kitchen wing. Corrugated roofing and cement capping to former kitchens. Aluminium stair and railings linking tower house to dwelling house in courtyard.
INTERIOR: original simple floor plan to tower with single rooms to each floor and guardrobes off still evident. Large projecting rough stone corbels supporting new floors. Two aumbry recesses to unlit unconverted basement room. Rough stone circular stair tower to SE corner. Interior decorative scheme and finishes date from 1960s reconstruction.
Statement of Special Interest
A-Group with Breachacha Castle and Breachacha Steading (see separate listings).
Old Breachacha Castle is a fine 15th century tower house with associated walled outbuildings. It is unusual in having been built without vaults or mural fireplaces: the only other similar castle is Kisimul Castle, and it has been suggested that the two were designed by the same person, although the lack of dressings and other stylistic details makes both hard to date accurately. Having become ruinous in the 19th century, it was reconstructed and renovated for domestic use in the 1960s. This work was undertaken to the highest conservation standards of the time and was preceded by a thorough archaeological survey, the results of which are available at the RCAHMS and a written report in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries for Scotland (see Refs). The majority of the 15th century fabric remained intact, door and window openings were left at their original size, the plan form was retained, and new elements added in a sympathetic and reversible manner.
In 1431 the island was granted to John Maclean, younger son of Lachlan Mclean of Duart, and it is believed that the first incarnation of the castle dates from this time, although the castle is not first mentioned until a charter in 1542, granting lands to the Macleans from James V. Hugh Maclean sold the Coll Estate to John Lorne Stewart in 1856 ending 4 centuries of Maclean ownership.
The first part of the castle to be built in the 15th century was the 4-storey tower house with integral stair, mural cupboards and garderobes within the wall thickness. Within this building phase the S and E sides of the castle were enclosed by a crenellated curtain wall, with a single storey hall to the courtyard and the prominent circular tower to the SE corner. In the late 16th century the original stair was replaced by a wider stair within the SE corner of the tower house wall. The castle underwent further stages of remodelling in the 16th and 17th centuries to include changes of openings and access. In the early 17th century a battery was added to the NW, enclosing the kitchen block in order to increase its defences to the landward side, although its construction was never finished. The last major development was in the late 17th century when the early hall was replaced by a 3-storey pitched-roof dwelling house visible from outside the wall.
The castle was superseded by the new castle in 1750 (see separate listing) but still remained in occupation for some time; the towerhouse roof is known to have been intact in 1843, after which point it fell into a derelict state. From 1930-38 general repairs were carried out to consolidate the ruin. In the 1930s Simpson described the castle as 'the most perfect and least altered example of a medieval stronghold in the Hebrides'.
The castle ruin was purchased in the 1960s and an archaeological survey was carried out by Turner and Dunbar. Breachacha Castle was then rebuilt to wallhead, re-roofed and converted into a family home to include modern conveniences in the later 1960s. The conversion was sensitive to the original plan layout with very few new openings or alterations to existing ones. This was possible due to a relaxation of building requirements secured by the architect Ian Lindsay (1906-1966) who was responsible for the initial project plans. The architect Richard Avery then took over the project which was finally completed in 1993. Most of the modern services are incorporated within garderobes and a former stair that had been closed off in the 16th century, minimising the need for modern partitions.
Kisimul Castle, Barra stands as good comparison also dating from the mid 15th century, and has a number of features in common with Breachacha having undergone similar stages of development before being abandoned in the mid 18th century and then restored in the mid 20th century.
The Ordnance survey map gives the spelling 'Breachacha', but the owner considers that 'Breacachadh' to be more correct.
List description revised 2008.